A consent order is an order made by a Court to formalise an agreement. A consent order is an administrative process but has the same effect as an order made by a judge after a trial.
In family law, a consent order formalises:
- Parenting arrangements
- A property settlement
- Spousal maintenance
…or any combination of the three.
Common Questions About Consent Orders
Both parenting and property agreements can be reached informally between two parties. In amicable separations, if you are satisfied with the agreement that is in place, it isn’t strictly necessary to seek a consent order. But you should keep in mind that informal agreements do have some risks.
For property settlements and spousal maintenance, you might reach an informal agreement, but then one party does not follow through on the agreement. If they then stall and delay until the time limit passed, the other party might find themselves with few legal options to resolve the issue.
For parenting arrangements, if the agreement isn’t formalised by consent order, there are no legal consequences for one parent breaking the agreement. This means that unlike financial consent orders, there is no time limit for seeking an order for parenting matters.
A consent order begins with an agreement between the two parties. So when you speak to one of our family lawyers, you might already have an informal agreement that you’ve negotiated with your former partner. Our lawyers will provide you with advice about that agreement, particularly if it falls outside of the range of what the Court will approve.
A Court will not make a consent order solely on the basis that both parties agree. The Court must approve the order and be satisfied, on the paperwork provided, that the order is reasonable and practicable.
- For property or financial consent orders, the Court will only make orders that it considers “just and equitable” (which is a legal term).
- For parenting consent orders, the Court will only make orders that it considers to be in the best interest of the children.
If you don’t already have an agreement, or there are a few details to be finalised, our lawyer can help you with those negotiations. When there are disagreements that can’t be resolved, we can also assist you with mediation between the parties.
After an agreement gets reached:
- An Application for Consent Orders gets prepared.
- The agreement is prepared in the form of a ‘draft consent order’ and attached to the application.
- The Application for Consent Orders (with the attached draft order) gets signed by one party.
- The Application and draft order gets sent to the other party and signed.
- The documents get filed in Court (there is an application fee).
- Then, the Court considers the application and then, if satisfied with the agreement, approves the draft consent order.
- A ‘sealed’ (stamped) order gets sent out to both parties, which finalises the application.
- Finally, the parties then comply with the terms of the order.
While independent legal advice is not strictly necessary for consent orders, both parties must be aware of their right to obtain independent legal advice and must have considered the relevant parts of the Family Law Act.
The application for consent orders is a form of approximately 26 pages in length, which must get filled out in detail. This document provides the Court with the information about your circumstances that helps determine if your agreement is reasonable. Furthermore, the form requires supporting documents get included for some aspects of the proposed orders.
Seeking independent legal advice for your application for consent orders can help to ensure:
- That all aspects of the matter have been taken into account, particularly when complex property pools get divided.
- If someone else has prepared an application for you to sign, that your rights and obligations are understood.
- The application gets filled out in accordance with the outcome you are expecting for both parties.
- The orders sought fall within the range of what the Court considers acceptable.
So, we generally do advise that you at least seek some initial advice about your application for consent orders.
However, if you then wish to proceed without the involvement of lawyers, the Family Court of Australia provides a do it yourself kit for applications for consent orders.
The Court filing fee for an application for consent orders is $165 (correct as of February 2020).
If you engage us, the legal fees will vary depending on the complexity of the matter and how cooperative the other party is during negotiations. In some cases, we can assist you with consent orders on a fixed-fee basis. We can discuss this with you based on the information provided during the initial consultation with our solicitors.
If your matter is not suited to a fixed-fee arrangement, we can provide you with an estimate of costs, along with the variables that impact those costs, so that you can decide whether to engage us.
If the application is in good order, and reflects an agreement that is reasonable and practicable, then the Court will consider the application without either party needing to personally attend. Only in rare circumstances will the Court request the parties to attend.
Once an agreement has been reached, the application can be drafted within a few days. However, this can vary depending on the complexity of the matter.
After the application has been filed with the Court, we usually see processing times of between 2 and 8 weeks. But, if the Court has a heavy workload at the time, this could stretch out to a longer period.
After the Court has made a consent order, one of the parties might then breach (contravene) the orders. For example, when parenting orders get made, one parent might not return the child to the other parent after their time. For financial orders, one party might not pay the required spousal maintenance or does not handover the agreed cash or property.
What the Court will do depends on:
- Whether the person has a “reasonable excuse” for the contravention.
- Whether the contravention is minor or major.
- How many times a breach has occurred.
The Court can take a range of actions including issuing warnings, fines, seizing and selling property, requiring one or both parties to attend a training program, or requiring one party to compensate the other for costs. The Court will also consider whether the orders need to be varied, suspended for some time, or even discharged.
We’re Ready to Help
Family Law Group Solicitors can assist you with formalising the agreement reached between you and your former spouse as a consent order.
We’ll prepare the application for consent orders and the orders which the Court is being asked to make. Also, we will prepare any other documents and ensure all the required steps get completed so that the Court has the information available when it considers the application.
Call our office today on (07) 5499 2900, and one of our friendly staff can book you in for an initial consultation with a solicitor to discuss your consent orders.
Or, you can send us a confidential enquiry by email using our contact page.